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Shari Sebbens: "That’s How We’ve Survived 200 Years Of Colonisation, We Laugh At You Mob"

"...and we laugh at ourselves."

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Shari Sebbens is a successful and acclaimed stage and screen actor from the Northern Territory. She’s a Bardi Jabirr Jabirr woman, but here’s the thing: she is fair-skinned and many Australians assume she's white.

When auditioning for characters written with an Indigenous actor in mind she has, on occasion, been asked to put on a “rural accent”, which is to say to sound Aboriginal. For the most part Shari has laughed at such requests. "That’s how we’ve survived 200-something years of colonisation, we laugh at you mob and we laugh at ourselves,” she says.
James Green / STC / AAP

When auditioning for characters written with an Indigenous actor in mind she has, on occasion, been asked to put on a “rural accent”, which is to say to sound Aboriginal. For the most part Shari has laughed at such requests.

"That’s how we’ve survived 200-something years of colonisation, we laugh at you mob and we laugh at ourselves,” she says.

In this episode of Pretty For An Aboriginal hosts Nakkiah Lui and Miranda Tapsell talk to Shari about code shifting, why New Zealand filmmaker Taika Waititi is the mentor all aspiring filmmakers of colour need, and why accents are such strong signifiers of race.

They each have funny and confronting personal stories about assumptions made about race and cultural identity on the basis of accent. And they discuss what accents tell us about current societal hierarchies in Australia. Is the ability to change one’s accent a source of freedom? What do you risk losing if you can and do sink into another voice?
Ben King / Anna Mendoza / BuzzFeed

They each have funny and confronting personal stories about assumptions made about race and cultural identity on the basis of accent.

And they discuss what accents tell us about current societal hierarchies in Australia. Is the ability to change one’s accent a source of freedom? What do you risk losing if you can and do sink into another voice?

Listen now:

1. Click the embedded link above to stream the show directly from this page.

2. Pretty For An Aboriginal is available in Apple podcasts.

3. Be sure to subscribe, so you never miss a new episode! Subscribe via Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Stitcher, iHeartRadio, Spotify, or wherever you find your podcasts.

Questions? Comments? Email nicola.harvey@buzzfeed.com

Credits:

BuzzFeed Series Producer & Editor: Nicola Harvey

Producer & Editor: Cinnamon Nippard (Audiocraft)

Audio Mix: Adam Connolly (Audiocraft)

BuzzFeed Designers: Ben King / Dennis Huynh

BuzzFeed Photographer & Video Producers: Nick Wray & Anna Mendoza

BuzzFeed Director of Audio: Eleanor Kagan

Contact Pretty for an Aboriginal at nicola.harvey+prettyforanaboriginal@buzzfeed.com.

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